Notes on New York and Nashville
The Gospel Sound, Twenty-First Century Singers and more!
I’m a little past due with this newsletter. We took a week off and went to New York, the first vacation of our almost eight-year marriage. We spent three days in the city and three days upstate. The highlight of our time in the city was getting to spend time with one of my writing mentors, gospel historian Anthony Heilbut. If you’ve never read his book, The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times, it’s an essential chronicle of gospel’s golden era, with glimmers of the “early days” of the second wave of the music’s progression. His 2012 collection of essays, The Fan Who Knew Too Much, includes two critical essays on gospel that should not be missed, they touch on Aretha Franklin, the influence of women and gay men on gospel, and oodles of remembrances of some of gospel’s lesser recalled voices.
Just before we left for New York, the latest feature on Johnny Whittaker and the Twenty-First Century Singers went live. Almost three weeks later, it is our second most-shared article and one of the most-read features. The outpouring of love for this group and the incredible memories of Johnny have been so beautiful to read. This is one of my favorites, from Jermaine Taylor, host of Soapbox Sunday:
“Back in the day, Bobby Jones came on both in the morning and at night. If Johnny had a solo, I always hoped evening service would be short just so I could hear Johnny sing again. He had style, too.” If you haven’t read the feature, here you go! And below are videos of Johnny and Charles Miller, who went on to be a part of Bobby Jones’ New Life in the 80’s.
Finally, there have been a large number of new subscribers in the past few months, so I wanted to take this opportunity as I wrap up the next feature to point the new readers back to some of the “lesser read” features that I hope you won’t miss!
“I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier: How did Teri DeSario's anti-imperialist message make its way into Contemporary Christian Music?”: An in-depth look back at the former disco artist’s migration into Christian music and her resistance to fundamentalist norms.
“From Separatism to Spiritual Reckoning: Meg Christian’s path to recovery and rebirth”: It’s not atypical for artists within a subculture to grow beyond their base. Such was the experience of one of the mother’s of Women’s Music, Meg Christian. When her music fused spirituality and feminism, her path ultimately led her out of the genre she helped form. Meg’s is an essential story that connects with the broad quest of God’s Music Is My Life.